24.2.2014

On the edge, 1st. Prize in Europan 12

Europan proposes participants transformation, in the first place, of the public space in between of the buildings, second, of the facilities that complete the set and eventually of the housing.

Before the World War II, Za Żelazna Brama was a dense neighborhood full of life. During the conflict, German occupants placed the Jewish ghetto there. In 1945 practically all of the original city was torn down. In the 60´s there has been build 19 identical residential blocs with 16 stories and 87 meters in length, which defines the character of the place. The poor quality of the housing, excessive uniformity of public space and lack of services have isolated this zone, putting it in a semi-marginal condition. A residential neighborhood with a very unattractive, despite its proximity to the city center.

The competition plot contains 3 of the 19 blocks of the quarter. Europan proposes participants transformation, in the first place, of the public space in between of the buildings, second, of the facilities that complete the set and eventually of the housing. We focus on solving the first two issues, those which affect public sphere of the city, as we believe, first essential operation to transform the place, to recentralize it in terms of use and reconfigure its system of free spaces.

The project works on different scales…

On the city scale, various interventions are proposed in order to strengthen the relation between main centers of activity in Warsaw and the Za Żelazna Brama district, currently isolated from civic and cultural dynamism of the city. There are various reasons for this isolation. Some are physical in nature: traffic infrastructure which interrupts the continuity with the city center, large parking areas dividing public space, etc. Others are political or strategic: residential monofunction, lack of services and centers of activity in the neighbourhood, etc.

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Bicycle Bridge and School Utrecht

Interventions in this scale are organized into three areas.

Cultural and memorial facilities
We propose to create a cultural route, that reinforces the relation between principal nodes of the jewish memory in Warsaw.

System of open spaces
We propose to connect the existing system of parks by green pathways for pedestrians and cyclists to improve the relationship between the green areas and the city, and Za Żelazna Brama district in particular.

Mobility
Large part of the surface parking area is eliminated and a system of superblocks with variable dimensions is defined, with only pedestrian areas and limited car access, multiplying the surface without traffic in this part of the city.

The urban structure of the pre-Nazi Warsaw was defined by a series of clearly indentifiable elements: streets, patios, plazas,… A very different conception to large, empty space, homogenous and without well-developed transitions between private and public, that is to be found in the environment of the site today. The project aims for a radical transformation of this model, without destroying the district identity, which is already part of the collective memory of the city.

Therefore, on the plot scale, we suggest an operation conceptually simple, but that unleashes an interesting series of consequences: occupy the plot perimeter by a low rise construction, which connects existing residential blocks. An operation, which, on the one hand, gives order to public space and a leading role to the street, offers much wider range of situations and transitions between private and public space, with more human spaces and more diverse environments; on the other hand, absorbs in its basement floors parking places currently dispersed all around the neighbourhood, and finally accommodates various uses (commercial spaces, small facilities, etc) that contribute to reactivating the environment, bringing Za Żelazna Brama closer to the city model opened 24/7.

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Railway Quarter

The intervention tries to organize public space by introducing diversity of characters. The street is main element of urban structure and absolute protagonist of public space. The inner courtyard has mainly local character but, however, during the day, remains open and accessible to other citizens. The perimeter area is the transition between these two worlds: services and activities oriented to both sides. They also provide space on their roofs for gardens for the local community.

The project also takes into account its capacity to adapt in time…

Defining a program that maintains activity 24 hours a day and 7 days a week: day care centers and night pubs, social housing and cultural facilities, offices and gyms for the neighborhood. Resolving new buildings with long-span structures that allow high degree of versatility and transformability, admitting all kinds of more or less temporary internal configurations. Leaving some areas of the project intentionally indeterminate to underline its mutable condition in time. In conclusion, creating a base structure, a metaproject which allows all kinds of physical and programmatic transformations, arising from needs at every moment, which can evolve with society without being stuck in obsolete models.

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